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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Easter Weekend

Lots of little things going on this last couple of weeks:
Last Friday (Good Friday in the UK) we had our new bedroom windows fitted, which required me to be ready to receive the workmen at 8am despite finishing my Thursday's work shift at midnight, though they did not actually appear until near nine. The windows went in within four hours with minimual fuss, and we now have two sash windows with bug screens to allow more air to circulate which will be a boon in hot weather. I had a short evening shift ending at 10:30pm.

On Saturday we had an ant exterminator visit at seven am, as we have had an influx of ants through various parts of the house. I had an afternoon/evening shift at work ending at 11pm, and it was quiet until around 9:30pm, when we had a sudden influx of customers. I had just one colleague keeping me company, so we were pretty rushed just at the time when things are normally quieting down and we start working the day's freight.

Easter Sunday was a chance for a lie in to catch up on sleep, but our cats woke us at 5:30am, hungry after a night's explorations and excitements. Sadly for any egg hunters it had started raining late Saturday night and carried on most of the morning. As I was working again that day (2:30-11:30pm), I totally forgot to eat a chocolate egg or bunny, and they still languish unattended.

On the way to work on Easter Sunday my engine warning light came on...  again. The engine light has first come on the previous Monday, prompting a visit to Oil Can Henry's to see what the problem was. After $160 of servicing, including a change of transmission fluid, the light turned out to be a warning about evaporation from the fuel tank, usually caused by the filler cap not being put on properly by the pump attendant. As you may recall we are not allowed to pump our own gas in Oregon, so I have little control over the filler cap. OCH reset the light and we unscrewed and rescrewed the filler cap, but the light came on again about 50 miles later. Thus I took the car in again on Wednesday, and they reset the light. If it comes on again I'll go to Autozone for their diagnosis.

Also on Wednesday I went to Bloomer's, a Garden Center that had been recommended to us by our neighbor Robert. The Center has a lovely view of the Cascade Mountains, but the peace is ruined by the traffic noise from the I5. It reminds me how lucky (or sensible) we are to live nowhere near any major roads. I bought an apple tree to replace the one we planted last year that expired in the hot June weather when we had a 10 day road trip. This new tree has multiple grafted branches and should grow four different apple varieties.

Robert had previously helped me trim our vines which had grown out of control, and with the space afforded by this trimming I was finally able to remove most of the biggest brambles from the bank, some branches turning out to be over 20 foot long and thicker at their base than my thumb. The cuttings from the vines and brambles are still piled in the garden, being reduced steadily as I feed the clippings into our garden waste bin, and also Robert's which he has lent me.

My laptop started acting up on Saturday but seems OK now. The USB ports failed to recognise my iPod, which can only have been plugged in 50-100 times previously so you can understand its confusion. Happily Beth was able to get it fixed while I was at work, so for now I am able to update my favorite podcasts. Microsoft have also messed about with Internet Explorer and I have had a new version foisted on me on the laptop. They have moved some of the regular buttons from the left to the right of the toolbar, which is like switching the accelerator and brake pedals in a car. Why they felt the need to do this is beyond me, and I wish I could switch back.

Yesterday President Obama released a copy of his long form birth certificate, which ought to finally shut up those people who have been trying to claim he is not legally qualified to be president, such as that sad clown Donald Trump. Of course it didn't, and they just moved onto their next whine, that he didn't get great school grades in 3rd Grade or something. It's all rather sad that the big issues of the day are sidelined for this pantomime.

Tomorrow is Royal Wedding Day, and I can't finish without giving it a mention. BBC America has been running Royal related stuff for a couple of weeks for hours every day, and tomorrow (starting at midnight tonight in fact) there will be many channels showing nothing else. I'll watch some of it (recorded), and would like to have been able to join my family in the UK who are having a viewing party, but time and funds did not allow. The Royal couple seem well suited from everything I've seen, and I wish them every happiness.

Friday, 15 April 2011

One Year in our Sweetwater Home

Today marks the first anniversary of moving into our home in Sweetwater Lane. The weather for our move was better than this year and we have had several wet days, so we were very lucky to have warm dry weather for the move. It really helped, not the least in drying out the carpets after their steam cleaning. Of course we had the garages to pile boxes and other items during the move, so we could have coped with wet weather if necessary.

After our initial rush of purchases for the house and garden we have added very little, the replacement dishwasher and new bedroom windows (yet to be installed) aside. The house is wonderful and rarely a day goes by that we do not remind ourselves how lucky and comfortable we are.

We have kept the house quite sparsely furnished, enjoying the roominess, and our occasional fits of tidying have kept it neat, at least by our standards. Having so much space makes it much easier to clean, tidy and organise than our London home, and having managed this for a year I think we will be able to continue the trend.

Over the next week I'll add some more observations and pictures, but I am in the middle of a six-day week at work, so I'm preserving my energies for that.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Werewolf Attack

Actuually it's just some scratches I suffered while mounting TVs on the wall at work, and they're not as bad as they look, though I do have another crop on the other arm. A metal mounting bars must have had a burr on it, and unnoticed I rubbed my arms across it several times.

It's new TV season, so we've been busy putting the new models on the wall and taking down the discontinued models. It's a two man, sometimes three man job, as the 55" screens weigh up to 35 pounds, and have to be lifted over shoulder height (and not dropped), hooked onto a bar that we can't see and hence sometimes require a spotter, and when it's all fixed and at the right height (which can take two or three tries) connected to the signal and power feed cables.

That last step is what caused me trouble last night, and led to the scratches. The signal cables we use have five separate connections, two for audio and three for the video feed, and these are not always in the same order on the back of the TV as they are on the cable. The cables are color coded, red and white for audio, and red (again), bluey-green and greeny-blue for the video. In good light I have no problem, but 10pm at night under fluorescent strips, with TVs all around you still playing their feed and blaring in your ears, fiddling behind a dusty panel and looking at everything through a mirror is not good light. Whilst hooking up one TV three others lost their feed, and it took a frustrating five minutes, right at the end of my shift,  to figure out that just because the signal box power light was on, it did not mean the signal box was actually receiving power.

The bulk of the work is now complete and we have a finished TV wall, and have stocks of matching TVs to sell, and can get to those TVs quickly and efficiently without performing simultaneous gymnastics and weightlifting at the top of a wobbly ten foot ladder. Hopefully.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Trip to Cost Plus World Market

It all started with the desire for a decent bacon roll.

I didn't often eat bacon rolls in the UK, but when I did, I wanted a tangy brown sauce to complement the crisp bacon and chewy roll. Unfortunately tangy sauce is not easily found in the US, and after trying various barbeque and steak sauces (mostly liquid sugars with a little coloring), I voiced my desire for some proper HP Sauce to Beth. She immediately got online and found a store in Eugene that carried said HP Sauce.

Cost Plus World Market caters (at a cost) to palates that respond to tastes other than sickly-sweet. You can get Asian, Indian and British foods, as well as many non-edible things. I zoned in on the British aisle, and picked out the HP Sauce ($6 a bottle), adding digestive biscuits, Branston Pickle and some Haywards pickled onions. Again, I'm not a huge consumer of pickled onions or Branston Pickle, but there's nothing quite like these produced or widely available in the US.

Is this the pangs of homesickness? I don't think so, though many ex-pats yearn for various foods or beverages. I haven't really missed any specific tastes or textures much, but it's nice to know I have somewhere I can get a digestive biscuit or a tangy sauce if the inclination is upon me.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Spring has Sprung

In the last week we've seen a decided change in the season, with several dry and sunny days, though occasional rain still keeps the lawns green and plants growing. Flowers sprung up, Daffs, Hyacinth, Narcissi and other unidentified things, and our pear trees and cherry trees have blossom starting. Other cherry trees have been in full blossom in other gardens, but ours is a little late. The frogs have been chorusing, and we've heard a woodpecker in the stand of conifers in the field to the North.

We've taken the patio furniture out from its winter home in the gazebo, and even had a brief barebeque on Sunday. The cats are occasionally using the sun loungers. Weeds are springing up everywhere and being tugged out almost as fast, and we have been preparing the raised beds for peas, pumpkins and other vegetables. Beth had grown two sets of seedlings so far and put them out, though the slugs and snails have had their munches on them.

Our biggest disappointment gardenwise is the apple tree we bought and planted last year. Due to the wrong sort of attention or neglect we managed to kill it stone dead, so we plan to get another fruit tree to replace it soon, probably another apple tree but with mixed varieties grafted on the same trunk. 

Tghe rainy season is definitely easing and before long we'll miss it, as we'll have to do a lot of watering to keep everything green, with a water bill to match. Fortunately the heating bill will be dropping at the same time, so our monthly expenses even themselves out.